Happy Holidays During COVID-19! Week #1: A Family Photo Contest to Make Quarantine Special

The holidays are a magical time, especially for kids. But this year, the pandemic is forcing families to rethink how they make that magic happen. With Thanksgiving approaching, and Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa next in line, how can you keep your family safe from COVID-19 while still making this year special?

Connecticut Children’s is kicking off a weekly series of ideas to inspire and delight your kids this holiday season – even in quarantine. (Tip: For quick links to the rest of the series, check out the Related Links at the bottom of this article.)


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If you start this one now, you can reveal photos as part of your Thanksgiving virtual celebration – and even have plenty of time to print cards to send as your actual holiday greetings!

Step 1. Decide the ground rules for your holiday photo contest.

  • Deadline: Pick a day in the next couple weeks if you want to share on Thanksgiving, or a date later in the season to time with Hanukkah or Christmas or another celebration.
  • How to submit: Decide if you’ll have each participating household email their holiday photo, post to a social media feed or use a shared board like kudoboard.com.
  • Theme: Select a specific theme (like characters from a favorite Christmas or Hanukkah special), or just aim for general holiday cheer.
  • How the winner will be decided: If this is a group decision, will each household get one vote, or each individual?
  • The prize: “Bragging rights” count.
  • The big reveal: Make a plan to share photos and vote on a winner. This could be everything from a virtual event to a simple email.

> Related: For Happier Holidays in Quarantine, Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Step 2. Create a holiday photo “tip list.”

Thanks to social media, lots of older kids and teens already know how to take a great photo – but to help everyone in your extended family succeed, consider writing out a tip list. Feel free to borrow ours:

  • Camera placement: Find a secure spot to prop your camera (or phone) that’s eye level with the group. You may need to move a table into position with a chair, stool or stack of books on top.
  • Lighting: Position everyone near a bright window or arrange lamps to shine on the group from the front or side (not behind or directly overhead). Even better? Take photos outdoors in soft lighting.
  • Background: Remove any distracting items so the focus is on your smiling (or silly) faces.
  • Props: What says Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or winter cheer to your family?
  • Perseverance: Try different poses and take lots of pictures until you find the one you like best.

> Related: 4 Ways to Celebrate a Socially Distanced Baby Shower During COVID-19

Step 3. Announce the holiday photo contest to family and friends.

Record a quick video of your child announcing the contest. For example: “Get ready for your close-up! This Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/holiday season, I hope you’ll join our photo contest! Check out the rules and tips. And say CHEESE!”

Attach the video to an email or social media message to your extended family and friends. Include the rules (Step 1) and tip list (Step 2). How can they say no?

> Related: How to Help Kids Handle Holiday Disappointment During COVID-19

Overhead photo of a chalk snowman and chalk sled that a family of four pose to look like they're riding.

Step 4. Let your child be your art director!

When it comes to your household’s photo submission, the best way to make the experience special for your child is to involve them every step of the way.

This means saying yes to even their silliest suggestions. Sure, maybe your idea of a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” family photo never involved Halloween costumes from years past or everyone wearing handmade cardboard hats – but it’s sure to bring your child lots of joy. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Here’s the next idea in our series. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Related links:

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